How to Reboot Your Brain

You’re on a roll, tearing through that 20-page document, making changes and getting it all down. And then it happens:

Your computer freezes up on you.

It’s the ultimate frustration. Your system just won’t work, and the only way to move forward is to shut it down.

Something similar happens when you’re mentally stuck. Sometimes you need to change your entire operating system, but sometimes you just need to reboot.

There are advantages to both. Why and when would you want to reboot rather than change systems?

Well, a reboot is easier. It builds off of something you’re familiar with and allows you to feel like you still have momentum. Doing a zero-based budget is a great example of a reboot. Some years ago I was looking at needed cutbacks, and I as went line by line through the P&L, I got lost in the detail of it all: Did we really need this item? How much?

I felt overwhelmed and wasn’t making any progress. So I rebooted by trying a zero-based budget. I started with a clean spreadsheet and listed out all of the items that were must haves if I were starting the company today. Having the clean page gave me a fresh start, took the noise out of the process and made it all much easier. And I knew I could always go back and look at the old P&L if needed to.

You can do this with a project or any plan you get stuck on. (And if the blank page makes you feel even more stuck, try “walking around” the issue by viewing it from the perspective of each of the four quadrants of the Whole Brain® Model.)

What about in life? You can zero-base your life planning by simply asking yourself: If I only focused on what I want and needed from this this day forward, what would that look like? What if the past didn’t matter?

Feel overwhelmed by the never-ending number of commitments you’ve made? Zero-base your activities by imagining you have a totally clean slate to work with. What are the value-added activities you would choose to have in your life?

Feel that your team is riddled with baggage? Give yourselves permission to zero-base your team’s world. Start as if you were onboarding together as a new team. What meetings, processes and structures would you need to be most effective?

The key is to move everything down to zero and then add back in the items that are most crucial. It’s a great way to reboot, shift your thinking and get a clearer view.

Ready to try a reboot? To ramp up your brain first, check out this video that asks, what would you choose to do if money were no object? It will free you up to think differently!


How Do You Measure Success?

Fall has arrived, and that means many of us are taking stock and planning for the future. How do you gauge your successes? And where do you go from here?

It’s a topic Ned Herrmann thought about a lot, particularly as he looked at the journey of his own life and career. What follows is an excerpt from an article he wrote on “Rethinking Success.”

As you evaluate your own successes, as well as those of your team, employees, company or even your personal life, consider how your thinking preferences might affect your view. How might you expand your definition of success? How might failure contribute to future successes?


Suppose somebody asked you how you personally measure success. What would first come to mind? Would it be wealth and the trappings of wealth in our culture, such as a house? Car? Boat? Vacation home? College?

Do you think there is a culture where success is measured on the basis of the level of spirituality achieved? How about always doing things on time? Or putting enough salt on the movie theater popcorn to increase drink sales?

Would it be possible to live in a culture where equal levels of success can be achieved in a variety of ways? A golf pro? A thoracic surgeon? A kindergarten teacher? A university professor? A chief executive officer? A minister? A poet? A circus clown? A mountain climber? An architect?

The list extends to infinity, and each one of these vocations or avocations has its own success potential. Achievement could be based on financial performance, on-time delivery of a project, or facilitating a management workshop that results in needed change. Celebrating 50 years of a happy marriage qualifies, as does being named Teacher of the Year, or being a syndicated political cartoonist.

Even though these represent very different kinds of success, the comparative levels of achievement could be relatively equal. Delivering a high percentage of outstanding sermons might be just as success-worthy as winning a professional golf tournament, winning a big contract or running your business at an increased level of profit. Helping children and adults discover “who they will be when they grow up” is, in every way, as worthy as developing a life-saving medical breakthrough.

Since I believe the world is an equally distributed composite of four distinct thinking preferences, I have found it clarifying to diagnosis success in four different ways:

  1. Those among us who prefer logical, analytical, rational thinking processes like to measure success on the basis of quantifiable performance, such as money: How much? When? For how long?
  1. People who prefer organized, sequential, structured, detailed thinking processes tend to measure success in terms of on-time completion of an event: Did it happen the way it was supposed to? Efficiently? On budget? Were the proper steps followed/completed? Was it legal and ethical?
  1. People who prefer an interpersonal, emotional, humanistic way of thinking apply “softer” measures of success, such as: Were relationships improved? Did meaningful communications take place? Was learning achieved? Was help provided? Was happiness achieved?
  1. Those who prefer conceptual, imaginative, intuitive modes of thinking typically measure success in terms of solving problems and achieving creative “Ahas!” They value achievements that are unique, future oriented and global in concept, particularly when they involve overcoming risks to get there.

Success is frequently a combination of these four different thinking preferences, but in most cases, one particular preference takes the lead and determines how success is measured for that person.

Success can also be highly varied in terms of rewards and recognition, but in most cases, that determination is in the eye of the achiever. That particular accomplishment for that person, at that time, represents success for them personally, and it’s not in competition with another person’s success.

It is my belief that ultimate success for each of us is a combination of personal health, well-being and happiness. Easy to say, but often difficult to achieve.

In the meantime, perhaps we should all recognize and honor different types of success in ourselves and others, each and every day. We may be happier for it.

The Case for Slower Management: Agility Isn’t Just About Speed

There’s a famous line from the movie The Princess Bride that could easily refer to the way so many of us define what it means to be agile leaders and managers:

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

When I hear the word “agility,” my first thought is always: Speed. I need to constantly be moving fast, staying nimble in the face of continual changes and complexities. It’s as if the old playground game of “Think Fast!” has become the daily battle cry, and I have to not only stay ahead of the pace but also be ready to shift on a dime when the unexpected comes up.

But I’ve also come to realize there’s a real cost to this kind of thinking, particularly when it comes to my role in developing strategy. How can I be effectively agile in my thinking and decision making if I haven’t taken the time to process what’s really going on around me and what it will take to get where I need to go?

We’ve become conditioned to believe that agility always equals speed, that slowness in management is always a bad thing, and that the “left brain” concepts of step-by-step planning and deliberateness are somehow no longer really necessary in a fluid, uncertain world, one in which novelty and edginess seem to rule the day.

After all, what’s cool about critical analysis?

When it comes to agility, being fast is only part of the equation. Speed and nimbleness may be “sexy,” but they don’t replace the basics, what we know to be true about good management. An either/or approach to thinking — this idea that if you have enough speed, it cancels out the need for deliberate planning and other management essentials — will fail every time. If anything, greater levels of speed demand higher levels of managerial competence in all areas.

In other words, to be successful at going fast, you have to be successful at being slow, too.

This is a paradox managers have always had to deal with to some degree, but the tension has never been greater than today. We’ve become accustomed to moving rapidly in many different directions at once. This year we need to resolve to make the time to get more deliberate, to go slow, too.

To increase your agility:

  •  Banish “either/or” thinking: Swift and deliberate, open minded and decisive, consistent and adaptable – agility requires embracing an “and” mentality.
  • Get back to basics: Good management never goes out of style. Especially in a complex, challenging environment, the basics not only have to be mastered, they need to be second nature.
  • Use Whole Brain® Thinking: Regardless of what seems “cool” or where your thinking preferences lie, remember that all thinking styles are essential to getting the best results. If you want creativity and collaboration to flourish and succeed, you have to have a clear understanding of the facts and an effective process in place to get you there. Ultimately, it’s about finding the right balance.

Are you missing the time to go slow? Is it affecting your results? Share with us how you’re dealing with the managerial paradox of going faster while become more deliberate in your thinking.


Is A Survival Mentality Holding Your Business Back? Free Chapter Download

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For the past few years we’ve heard a lot about what businesses need to do to survive through the recession and survive in the new economic environment we’ve entered. 

No question, these strategies have been helpful and important. But it’s equally important to remember that, although operating in survival mode can keep heads above water, it’s only a short-term solution. And this short-term mentality impacts companies even when it’s not related to tough economic conditions.

Businesses focused on making the leap to the next stage of growth often find themselves in a similar situation. The very mentality that helped them get where they are may be keeping them from getting where they want to go.

Brain research has shown that the kind of thinking that’s essential for short-term survival actually hinders long-term growth and development. In an unpublished chapter originally written for The Whole Brain® Business Book, Ned Herrmann, founder of Herrmann International, addressed this topic as it relates specifically to the dilemma that many businesses face as they attempt to move from infancy to maturity.

In “Short-Term/Long-Term Leadership: Survival of the Fittest,” he notes that, in terms of the Whole Brain® Model, companies often start with an emphasis on D-quadrant thinking about the future and possibilities. But pressing business realities quickly intervene, and cash flow becomes the immediate concern. Leaders discover they must shift to left-mode, A- and B-quadrant thinking to deliver products and services and generate cash quickly.

In short, they suppress entrepreneurial thinking in favor of operational action.

While this approach makes sense for a business in its infancy, it often perpetuates itself long after because left-mode thinking becomes part of the management culture.

The same thinking that kept the business alive up to this point now threatens to kill it.

For the business to thrive, Ned explains, leaders have to become more agile in their thinking and to be able to apply situational Whole Brain® leadership thinking.

You can download the full chapter here: Short-Term/Long-Term Leadership: Survival of the Fittest


The Trends We’re Watching in 2010: How Will They Impact You?


From leadership strength to innovation, virtual teams to social learning, faster on-boarding to better measurement, business leaders and learning professionals have a full plate in 2010.

We’ve distilled down the trends and focus areas organizations are talking about into our list of Top 10 for 2010, including the Whole Brain® implications for each of these trend areas.

So tell us: What stands out to you when you read through this list? What will be the top 3 hot button topics that you, your organization or your clients will be dealing with this year?

Share your top 3 and any other thoughts you have about trends for the year in the comments section of this post. A few lucky commenters will be winners of our next prize give-away on the Whole Brain® Blog!

Note: This is an expansion of an article that appears in our January BrainBytes™ e-newsletter. Be sure to sign up if you’re not already receiving our monthly newsletter.

  1. Strengthening Overall Leadership Skills. With the planned economic rebound, never has there been such a demand for leadership. After a year in which much development was “on hold,” many organizations are reviewing their existing curricula, updating their approaches with new blended offerings and emphasizing competencies that stress a broader range of skills and a need for situational thinking.Whole Brain® Implication: Understanding leadership through a Whole Brain® lens allows for a fresh approach to leader development. I am currently working on a model of the leadership attributes required for 21st Century leaders. (Please email me if you are interested in receiving a copy.)
  2. A Broader Definition of Diversity (and related talent management implications). Diversity and diversity initiatives continue to play a significant role in the workplace, and the definition is expanding to include such areas as thinking and generational differences. There is also a growing focus on the business benefits of inclusion, beyond an articulation of the process and need. Whole Brain® Implication: When the HBDI® is used as a platform or introduction to diversity, it provides a broader lens for viewing diversity and immediately gives the initiative a practical, relatable and actionable context. A recent article on Harrah’s approach to “diverse by design” teaming is a great example of how cognitive diversity can be leveraged for increased innovation.
  3. Adapting to Virtual Leadership and Team Roles. Reduced travel and a growing “virtual workforce” have decreased face-to-face time and both highlighted and heightened the need for more effective approaches to virtual leadership, teaming and communications.Whole Brain® Implication: Terrific research on Virtual Distance has emerged, and it recommends the use of an approach (like Herrmann International’s!) to reduce the perceived distance between virtual colleagues and increase their effectiveness. It’s a topic we’re considering for a future webinar if there is enough interest. If you have a particular interest or need, be sure to consult with your Herrmann Client Relationship Manager for information and assistance.
  4. Faster On-Boarding and Ramp-up to New Functions, Teams and Responsibilities. In light of the desired mobility and shorter job stints of younger generations, the need for rapid assimilation has increased even further. Whole Brain® Implication: Several organizations in the United States and around the globe are using the HBDI® as an accelerator for assimilation and “culture positioning.”
  5. Developing and Retaining High-Potential Employees. Emerging leaders, or “Hi-Po’s” as they are often called, are a precious resource and will be at risk for poaching from the competition as soon as the economy rebounds (and don’t kid yourself: The best are already weighing their options!). Whole Brain® Implication: As early as in the 1980s, Ned Herrmann used the HBDI® at Crotonville as a development platform for Hi-Po’s. Since then a multitude of companies have found the model to be a good fit because it helps to build off of and honor preference in addition to providing the opportunity for stretching thinking as needed – thus, no cop-outs!
  6. Building Teams That Fuel Innovation. Many believe that innovation will be the key for succeeding in the wake of this economic crisis. The opportunity is there, but innovating out of the recession requires work at both the organizational culture level and the team level – work that many organizations have yet to take on or simply aren’t doing well. Whole Brain® Implication: In her recent book, The Firefly Effect, Kimberly Douglas, President of FireFly Facilitation, a Herrmann HBDI® Certified Practitioner and a nationally recognized team effectiveness expert, shares a multitude of ways she has used Whole Brain® Thinking and the HBDI® to help her clients transform group talents and energies into innovative business ideas.
  7. Social Media Implications on Customer Experience, Service and Brand. A recent article in Scientific American Mind on social networks and mental health addresses many of the questions we are asking about what it all means for us as humans. Clearly, there are huge organizational implications as we look for effective, informal touch points with those we serve. Whole Brain® Implication: I addressed the phenomenon of hyperthinking and its impact on the brain in an article last year. With so many communication options accessible to us all, it’s never been more important to look for ways to communicate using a Whole Brain® approach: Who is your target? How do they like to be communicated to?
  8. Expanding Effective Use of Informal Learning, Social Learning and Self-Paced E-Learning. We have learned much in recent years about the power and effectiveness of informal learning from many thought leaders, including my friend Jay Cross. Jane Hart from the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies is great resource on social learning (follow her on Twitter or check out her blog, Social Media in Learning). The economic crisis has led to a renewed interest in self-paced e-learning and simulations as a viable part of a blended solution. Whole Brain® Implication: The brain is an essential part of all learning processes. As you reflect on your design options, think about ways to use a Whole Brain® Approach to enhance the outcomes. For more on Whole Brain® learning and design, download the recent white paper, The Best of Both Worlds – Making Blended Learning Really Work by Engaging the Whole Brain®, or see my article, The Learner – What We Need to Know, in the ASTD Handbook for Workplace Learning Professionals.
  9. Better Measurement of Learning Impact/Demonstrating Connection to Bottom-Line Results. Demonstrating ROI is still one of the biggest challenges of many in our profession, and with resources tight, the connection to the bottom line is ever more critical. Learning leaders are redoubling their efforts to better measure and more effectively articulate training’s impact on organizational success. Whole Brain® Implication: For several years I have referred to ROI as Return on (a) Investment, (b) Implementation, (c) Interaction and (d) Ideas. All four are vital. What results are you trying to drive?
  10. Increasing Training in 2010 (but not necessarily increasing resources). The need is there! Many are saying there is a pent-up demand for training and development and feel they have some catching up to do. Others kept things going in ‘09 but see a growing demand for development in a growing (albeit slowly) economy. Whole Brain® Implication: Clients are telling us that the Whole Brain® approach gives them the advantage of a platform for learning that is fast to teach, can address a wide range of applications and has great stickability.
  11. Sources

Get Strategic and Get More Done: Secrets of the C-Level Brain

In January 7th’s webinar for Training Magazine Network, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi discussed the “4 Secrets of the C-Level Brain,” showing attendees how they can apply some specific tools and techniques based on Whole Brain® Thinking to get more strategic AND get more done.

You can access the recording of the webinar as well as additional downloads and resources by becoming a member of the Training Magazine Network (free registration required) and joining Ann’s group, Secrets of the CEO Brain, where the discussion about thinking strategically continues.

From “hyperthinking” to narrow thinking, participants have revealed many obstacles that are getting in the way of a more strategic perspective. What is the biggest challenge to YOUR ability to think strategically?

Back to The Future…but Which One?

As Dorothy said to Toto in the Wizard of Oz: “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.”

The most predictable trend for the year ahead is that 2010 will be unpredictable. Helping others (and yourself) through this “new yet unpredictable normal” will represent a new set of demands on us all.

A few of the most challenging aspects can be addressed by applying what we know about the brain. Here are three ways you can shift your thinking to prepare yourself for the unpredictable future

Staying Positive Through Uncertainty: Sustained and unpredictable change can significantly impact our mindset and brain states. One recent brain study found that such uncertainty leads to more anxiety, and for many, that can make an experience seem more negative than it actually is. You may have seen this in your own workplace—there seems to be a consistent undertone of negativity, regardless of what is really going on.

  • Shift Your Thinking: Make a list of all the positive things you know will NOT change. Even simple routine activities count (e.g., time with family, hobby-related activities, get-togethers with friends, etc.). This can set your mind at ease that not everything is different or negative.

Reality Checks: Plato stated, “nothing endures but change.” Seems obvious, and we know that will be more true than ever in 2010. This state of constant flux may exacerbate the sense of uncertainty, which, as noted above, will often makes things “seem” worse.

In fact, recent research shows that some of us actually will fare better hearing the tough truth rather than being stuck with uncertainty, worrying about what might be. I believe this is true for most of us.

  • Shift Your Thinking Do a reality check! Ask the tough questions and seek out as much information as you can, even if is the answers are hard to take or not what you want to hear.
  • Many people will hide in denial because they don’t want to deal with the unpleasantness they predict will occur. But in fact, knowing what is ahead allows you to plan and look for alternatives rather than get caught off guard. A warning: Make sure your information is based on real data and facts before you assume the worst. Use the Whole Brain® Model as a guide to make sure you are looking at all perspectives.

Thinking Around Corners: A distinct trend is the need for more strategic thinking. I am hearing managers and leaders across the globe ask how they provide support for this essential need. While true for all functions in the organization, the events that occurred in ’09 make this very critical for the Human Resources professionals who will be facing a broader and more demanding landscape and broad set of needs across all roles – from recruiting and outsourcing to career development to healthcare.

  • Shift Your Thinking: Never has scenario-planning been more important! Use your Whole Brain to look at possible scenarios, and rely on your left brain thinking to plan around them. Here are some more tips on the best way to do this process.

The pace of our day-to-day lives keeps us moving so quickly that, more often than not, we may be skimming the surface rather than taking advantage of all of our thinking power and knowledge. The best approach as we prepare for whatever future lies ahead of us in 2010 is to stop and think!

Don’t Fall Back! Spring Ahead To Get Ready for the New Normal


We’ve entered a “New Normal” in the wake of this recession, and our world will never be the same. Fall may be in the air, but now’s the time to use your Whole Brain® to Spring forward with a new creative and strategic mindset.

In this month’s BrainBytes newsletter, we explore the steps you can take using your Whole Brain® to get into a new mindset:

  • Try a zero-based approach to your personal or professional situation, and capture what is “in.” Do a gap analysis to see what is currently “in” that may need to go.
  • Imagine what your world will be like post recession, and identify at least one opportunity that is new and could be explored. Use magic wand thinking or any other creative tool you know to find new possibilities.
  • Get outside your own head. Engage your team, friends and/or family in looking for ways to reduce stress and lighten up so you can temper or ward off the proverbial “reptilian downshifts” that can so easily occur.
  • Develop a New Normal plan. Start by looking at the Spring (or later in next year if you are more comfortable with that) to chart out your “New Normal” and the steps that will get you there. If you find your self worrying about how the old normal will get taken care of, go back to the A quadrant and use a zero-based approach to imagine that this is a new start. Try it! It works!

Learn more about the “New Normal” and these steps in this month’s BrainBytes™ newsletter.